Funked-up electronics via alt.America
It’s their third album, although they only recently transmogrified from a solo vehicle for multi-instrumentalist clever clogs Josh Hodges into a fully-fledged band, the touring members having been invited to contribute to songs to invoke the spirit they whip up at their sweatily exciting live shows.
The opener, ‘When I’m Alive’, is electro funk on quaaludes, with a nagging hook that puts me in mind of any number of groovy types that have tried to make Century 21 a fun time to be alive with their kitchen sink aesthetic. MGMT, for example. By ‘Salzo’, the synths are pulsing and it sounds less bandy and, oddly, has more energy. It has whiffs of fellow American musical magpie Sufjan Stevens and his uplifting brand of acceptable psychedelic weird, as does ‘Malmö’, which is all rubbery funk bass and is named after a soundcheck jam in that very city.
‘Beach Monster’ somehow fuses elements of Paul McCartney, Pixies and My Bloody Valentine, which may well tell you everything you need to know about STRFKR. Like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, what you have here is a prodigious songwriter, thoroughly self-educated by a parent’s huge record collection (possibly), cherry picking the more interesting pop sounds of the last, ooh, 50 years, including all the better attempts of the last, ooh, 20 years to reinvent the 30 years before that. Throw in a school career which almost certainly included some formal musical training and you get STRFKR.
The standout track on ‘Miracle Mile’ may well be the slow disco of ‘Atlantis’, replete with 80s strings, a boom-splat drum machine and a tune you know you’ve heard before but you probably haven’t, sung by Josh Hodges with suitable authenticity and swooping falsetto. ‘Leave It All Behind’ is another high point, an electronic cacophony that drops into heartfelt quiet, only to lift off into a flurry of analogue squeals and yelps. It rinses some DX7 presets and a reggae section before it’s finished with you.
‘I Don’t Want To See’ relies on the pulsing synth bass again, falling somewhere between New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ and a Moroder disco cut for Donna Summer, and it’s another winner. You can imagine it being played live, its final ecstatic but brief coda being extended in a rush of festival-ready glory by the band. The closing track of the set, ‘Nite Rite’, is a killer of krautrock tendencies. Shuddering treated organ a la Irmin Schmidt and a repeating off-beat bassline provide the bed for a dreamlike vocal – all of which, at over seven minutes, doesn’t come and go before its time is up, like so many of the other songs here.
‘Miracle Mile’ is an amiable shambles of nice tunes that never drop below enjoyable. Not for the hardcore electronicist easily offended by guitars, though.